Has darts lost its popularity?

Middlesbrough’s very own Glen Durrant – the current BDO World Champion. Source: Getty Images

The British Darts Organisation (BDO) was the initial governing body for the sport of darts when it was founded in 1973. In the late 80s, the sport split into what is now known as the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) as well as the BDO.
When darts first came onto the scene in the 1970s, the BDO mastered the initial TV coverage. But now, because there’s more than one governing body, the number of different tournaments has increased, and so the overall average viewing figures have decreased. This begs the question has darts lost its popularity?

Phil Taylor has won the World Championship of Darts an incredible 16 times, but with his retirement announced at the start of the year, many fans are sceptical of whether darts will ever be the same.

His last match, the final of the 2018 PDC World Darts Championship, saw him defeated by newcomer Rob Cross, and deprive him of his 17th World Championship.

Cross himself is definitely a ‘new kid on the block’; he was playing pub darts just two years ago before he became World Champion.

Some may argue his sudden burst on the scene, and his undoubted potential, may put him in the best position to one day overtake Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor as the greatest darts player of all time.

However, with other great darts players still currently playing, such as former World Champions Raymond van Barneveld, Michael van Gerwen and Gary Anderson of the PDC, as well as Glen Durrant, the reigning back-to-back BDO World Champion, this would be no easy task.

Dr Patrick Chaplin – possibly the only Darts Historian on the planet!

Dr. Patrick Chaplin is a Darts Historian, who was awarded a PhD in 2006 by the Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, where he did 12 years part-time, self-funded research on Darts in England between 1900 and 1939.

In his time researching darts, over 30 years, he has authored and co-authored eight books on darts, has a devoted darts history website and has a free online newsletter with subscribers in over 120 countries, and he’s played pub darts for over 50 years to boot.

Patrick said: “The PDC now nurtures more up and coming darting talent through its junior events and Q School and so Rob Cross may not be a one-off. There is so much untapped talent out there.”

“Rob’s rise to fame has been extraordinarily fast, something built on hard work, self-belief and a resilience I have never seen before. Although we must not become too excited about this individual player as he has so much more to prove to himself, his fellow professionals and, of course, the fans.

“The PDC has a great future but must resist over-exposure, risking darts fans becoming bored with ‘the same old faces’. Rob Cross and others are helping to change this but the risk is still there.”

So, this would perhaps suggest that darts may have lost its popularity for now, but the sport has been in a similar situation before.

Patrick said: “The forerunner of the PDC, the WDC (the World Darts Council) was formed in the late 1980s by sixteen professional players, their managers and members of the darts industry to pull darts out of the doldrums.”

“They saw the ailing BDO not supporting the professional players so they broke away. The BDO thought that they would come running back but they didn’t.

“The WDC, later renamed the Professional Darts Corporation, transformed the sport of darts, but it took time.

“The PDC now provides regular high profile tournaments with ever-increasing prize money and ever-increasing audience numbers. Such has been their success that many of the PDC events fill huge arenas, something the BDO never achieved, or perhaps never even thought of trying to achieve.

“As for the BDO, this organisation seems to be a mere shadow of its former self. The next five years will show if the BDO can pull itself together and raise its profile.

“Remember always that the PDC exists to provide for professional players whereas the BDO has the remit to provide ‘Darts for all.”

Peter Adams is the Chairman of the Maltby & District Darts League and has been since the 2009/10 season. He’s also played in the Maltby League since he was 18, over 45 years ago.

In his time playing, he has been runner up in the individual tournament in the Maltby League, and has also played against the likes of John Lowe, Adrian Lewis and Bobby George in his career.

He said: “The popularity of darts has increased due to Sky and the amount of prize money that is on offer.”

“They’ve pushed audiences up to ten thousand people and it’s televised in many countries. Due to television the BDO is getting good exposure but it is miles behind the PDC.

“The PDC will continue to go from strength to strength so long as the exposure continues to grow and the phenomenal amounts of prize money continues to pull the growing talent that is out there.

“Rob Cross is a good example of that, and he has to be an inspiration to anyone who follows the sport, just like Phil Taylor was in previous years.

“However, the BDO will continue to be the poor relation to the PDC because of the armature status it holds in comparison.”

It would be difficult to argue that the BDO hasn’t fallen behind the PDC in terms of popularity; however, with the nurtured talent coming through the ranks, it is definitely possible that we will see darts returning to its previous glory once again.

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